Country of Origin
This review first appeared in February 2023 on HifiKnights.com. By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby syndicated to reach a broader audience. All images contained in this piece are the property of HifiKnights or the manufacturer- Ed.
Reviewer: Marek Dyba
Sources: custom passive Win10 server with Roon, Fidelizer Pro 7.10, JCAT NET XE & USB XE cards with ferrum Hypsos Signature power supply, Keces P8 power supply and JCAT USB Isolator; LampizatOr Pacific DAC with Ideon Audio 3R USB regenerator; J.Sikora Standard Max turntable with KV12 tonearm, AirTight PC-3 cartridge and Grandinote Celio MK IV and ESE Lab Nibiru V 5 phono stages
Preamplifier: Audia Flight FLS1
Power amplifier: GrandiNote Shinai
Speakers: GrandiNote Mach4, Ubiq Audio Model One Duelund Edition
Interconnects: Bastanis Imperial x 2, Soyaton Benchmark, Hijiri Million & HCI-20, TelluriumQ Ultra Black, KBL Sound Zodiac XLR, David Laboga Expression Emerald USB & Digital Sound Wave Sapphire Ethernet
Speaker cables:Soyaton Benchmark
Power components: LessLoss DFPC Signature, Gigawatt LC-3, Gigawatt PF-2 MK2 and Gigawatt PC-3 SE Evo+; a custom power line with Gigawatt LC-Y in-wall cable; Gigawatt G-044 Schuko and Furutech FT-SWS-D (R)
Network: Silent Angel Bonn N8 + Forester F1 + optical LAN isolator
Rack:Base VI, Rogoz Audio 3RP3/BBS
Resonance attenuation: Rogoz Audio SMO40/CPPB16 platforms and BW40MKII feet, Franc Accessories ceramic disc slim feet and wood block platform, Graphite Audio CIS-35 and IC-35
Retail price of component: $4'540 for preamp, €6'780 for stereo amp [ex VAT]
While a great integrated amplifier like the Circle Labs A200 can offer outstanding performance, it's common audiophile belief that separate pre/power amps (or better still, two mono amps) are necessary for peak performance. Though I truly appreciated the A200, I too couldn't wait to lay my hand and ears on the Circle Labs P300/M200 set. Would it perform better yet? If you missed my earlier review, let's recap this relatively young Polish brand. They've managed to already make some noise on the global market. Founded back in 2007, it's been over the last 2-3 years that the buzz started. Their first product was the A100 integrated now obsolete. The big break came with the A200. It was special for its proprietary tube inputs and solid-state outputs.
What distinguishes Circle Labs is their approach to R&D. Not only are new products measured, listened to and tested multiple times inhouse, the first units always tour the systems of trusted audiophiles and laymen. The former help them tweak the tuning, the latter force them to come up with new solutions to protect machine and user from all possible mishaps. It's a win-win which makes the final products better in every possible way. The two people behind the brand are Krzysztof Wilczynski, engineer and founder, and Krzysztof Lichon, design specialist and marketing guy. Both are music lovers. The former had been designing and building audio kit first with tubes as a hobby then moved to hybrid circuits when he joined forces with the latter who developed the brand's original unmistakable cosmetics. Today's lineup is three deep: the A200 integrated, P300 preamplifier and M200 power amplifier. The stereo amp can be bridged to mono.
The P300 is a fully balanced pure transistor design without DAC, streamer, phono or headfi stage so no add-on circuits that could impair performance. To only design highly specialized machines seems to be a strict design focus. As emphasized several times in my A200 review, the brand's cosmetics are very distinctive and to my eyes one of the most beautiful to market. The P300's black metal chassis measures 43x34x13cm and weighs 10.6kg. With the stablemates it shares that signature 15mm eye-catching glass front. Like the integrated it features large volume and input selector knobs with a central LED display for output level. For safety, the latter resets to zero with each power down. Two joined brass accents appear to clamp the fascia to the chassis. The deep black color offset by these gilded aspects really complements the artful look. The upper brass plate surrounds a small standby button, the lower proudly flies the engraved brand name. The lid engraved with the company logo also runs mesh-filled cutouts of varying lengths through which one can peek at the innards. While obviously doubling as vents, unlike the amplifiers this preamp doesn't really get warm.
The rear panel hosts 2:3 XLR/RCA inputs and, being fully balanced, two XLR-only outputs. RCA sockets are from CMC, XLR from Neutrik. An IEC power inlet and mains switch complete the business. Three metal footers with rubber O-rings hold the affair aloft. The compact metal remote offers control over volume, mute and display brightness but not input selection. The dual-differential circuit combines newest Jfet and BJT transistors, is focused on the shortest signal path and minimal hookup wiring. Relay-switched resistor ladders offer 63 volume steps. The power supply runs two LL-core transformers, one per channel, capacitor banks with Elna Silmic II parts and two cascaded voltage regulators with LED current sources to avoid classic Zener diodes or IC regulators.